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Review: The Union #1 is a Half-Baked Attempt at Both a new superhero Team and an Event Tie-In

The Union #1

I was familiar with Paul Grist’s work from his work with Grant Morrison on the underrated (And, at the time, highly controversial) 1989 British indie comic St. Swithin’s Day where a disaffected youngster sets out to assassinate Margaret Thatcher. With the exception of the first page that is both written and drawn by Grist in a cheeky cartoonish style, The Union #1 lacks this book’s satirical edge and dark humor and introduces a fairly generic team of UK-themed superheroes to fight some fairly generic symbiote types connected to the King in Black crossover. The visuals from Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci, Le Beau Underwood, and Nolan Woodard are decent and have some decent energy any of The Union members use their abilities like Kelpie masquerading as a puddle in a training session against British soldiers. I also liked the recycled Phonogram: Rue Britannia plot point though.

I’m a big Anglophile and was really looking forward to a new team of British Marvel heroes in The Union #1, but boy, was I disappointed. There are the seeds of some good ideas in the book with Grist and Di Vito establishing from the get-go that the team is a big media stunt complete with making sure that England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland are each represented by a team member. They also establish a media pecking order with everyone wanting to speak to Britannia, and Union Jack, who has appeared in comics for the past four decades and even had his own series several times, getting out and out shooed by the breakfast TV host parodies, Phil and Suzanne. It’s kind of funny because Union Jack is really the only character in the book with any kind of personality even if his narrative captions are pretty basic commentary on being a hero for a long time (Yay sliding timelines!) and the legacy of British imperialism. The other team members, Snakes, Kelpie, and The Choir also get to showcase their unique powers and be generally sassy towards their government handlers. This sounds like a superhero book, I could get into, like Justice League International with a UK flavor.

However, character development and the dynamic between The Union, the British government, and corporate sponsor Steve Darwin is all thrown aside for an editorially mandated King in Black crossover that will last all five issues of the miniseries. Paul Grist and Andrea Di Vito really get into generic superhero team-up beats complete with hapless bystanders falling under some form of mind ,er, symbiote control and a telegraphed taking out of a main character before you have a chance to really get to know them (Again, think Phonogram.). There’s also the ol’ team rallying together in a big team pose instead of a cliffhanger that makes me want to pick up the second issue. (I will because I’m a softie for British superheroes, and with his reputation, Grist deserves another chance.)

As I mentioned earlier, Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci, LeBeau Underwood, and Nolan Woodard’s art is probably the less egregious part of The Union #1. For example, Woodard uses deep blacks for the symbiotes against the cloyingly bright palette of the Somerset to show how silly all the media prattle seems against a real threat. In the same scene, Di Vito, Geraci, and Underwood channel medieval compositions when Britannia goes against a symbiote dragon while quipping about St. George not actually being British, which is a nice bit of satire about the emptiness and historical inaccuracy of nationalist symbolism from Paul Grist. If only the rest of the comic could have synthesized wit and action like these pages. However, I didn’t have many complaints about the art. It’s easy to follow, and each team member has a distinct design and power set even if their personalities aren’t as fleshed out yet.

Paul Grist, Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci, LeBeau Underwood, and Nolan Woodard introduce a new British superhero team in The Union #1, but the novelty of new characters (and the return of an old one) is soon overwhelmed by one-dimensional characterization, predictable plot beats, and the burden of having to be an origin story and event tie-in. Also, Grist’s script lacks the bite of his U.K. indie work even though he gets a couple of licks in. I’m really curious to see how much of his original vision was “editorialized” out.

Story: Paul Grist Pencils: Andrea Di Vito with Paul Grist
Inks: Drew Geraci, LeBeau Underwood with Paul Grist
Colors: Nolan Woodard Letters: Travis Lanham
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXology – Amazon – Kindle – Zeus Comics

Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime Partners with the National Down Syndrome Society for a Hero with Down syndrome

It’s finally been announced that Lion Forge has teamed up with the National Down Syndrome Society for a new superhero who also happens to have Down syndrome. This was something we were privy to way back when the line was first announced around New York Comic-Con, and it’s wonderful to see the news finally break as it’s something truly special and unique.

The series Superb is part of the Catalyst Prime line of superhero comics launched this week. So, you can check out the excellent first issue Noble and the Free Comic Book Day comic.

Superb, written by David F. Walker and Sheena C. Howard, with art by Ray-Anthony Height, LeBeau L. Underwood, and Veronica Gandini is being released and created in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society.

The story follows the teenager Kayla Tate who is forced to move back to her hometown Youngstown, Ohio, an “Event” designated Level 5 impact zone. Compared to her new life, returning to Youngstown is a step backwards. She has a strained relationship with her childhood friend, Jonah Watkins, school is a nightmare, and everyone is talking about the mysterious superhero and sensation, “Cosmosis,” and his nighttime battle against the supposedly-benevolent corporation Foresight.

The comic will be released in stores and digitally July 19, 2017.

This Week in the DC 52

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DC comics is undergoing the biggest shift in it’s line ever, relaunching 52 comic books with brand new number 1 issues and updating the characters for modern times.  It’s the prefect starting off point for new readers, but there’s numerous series and characters I could tell you anything about.  This is a breakdown each week of that week’s releases as well as suggestions on previous arcs that’ll get you introduced to the characters.

ACTION COMICS #1Writer: Grant Morrison, Art: Rags Morales and Rick Bryant

The one and only Grant Morrison (ALL-STAR SUPERMAN) returns to Superman, joined by sensational artist Rags Morales (IDENTITY CRISIS), to bring you tales of The Man of Steel unlike any you’ve ever read! This extra-sized debut issue is the cornerstone of the entire DC Universe!

This is year 0 of the DC universe.  It chronicles the first hero and the public’s reaction to him.  I’ll admit I’m nervous about this one, as I didn’t dig Morrison’s work on Batman, but this is a pillar of the DC universe and it’s Superman.  He’s an iconic character who hopefully won’t be updated too much.

Key reads: All Star Superman, Vol. 1, All Star Superman, Vol. 2

ANIMAL MAN #1 – Writer: Jeff Lemire, Art: Travel Foreman and Dan Green

Buddy Baker has gone from “super” man to family man – but is he strong enough to hold his family together when Maxine, his young daughter, starts to manifest her own dangerous powers? Find out in this dramatic new series from writer Jeff Lemire (SWEET TOOTH) and artist Travel Foreman (The Immortal Iron Fist).

This is one of the series I know nothing about.  Jeff Lemire can write, but as a whole that first issue better really draw me in.  This is one of the series I put of there as a good chance to be cancelled.  That description does nothing to introduce me to the character who is able to borrow the abilities of animals around him.  It has potential, but who knows.  Grant Morrison had a well respected run on the character.

Key reads: Animal Man, Book 1 – Animal Man, Animal Man, Book 2 – Origin of the Species, Animal Man, Book 3 – Deus Ex Machina

BATGIRL #1 – Writer: Gail Simone, Art: Adrian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes

Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl – and she’s going to have to face the city’s most horrifying new villains as well as the dark secrets from her past. You won’t want to miss this stunning debut issue from fan-favorite BIRDS OF PREY writer Gail Simone!

Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl, which is odd since last we saw, Barbara was in a wheelchair.  But in the hands of Gail Simone, I expect a solid series that puts the once former Batgirl right back into the uniform.  I’d want it in the hands of no one else.  The drastic change in the character brought a lot of news with it, and a lot of criticism, here’s hoping Simone puts all of that to rest.

Key reads: Batman: The Killing Joke, Batgirl: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, Batgirl: Year One (Batman)

BATWING #1 –  Writer: Judd Winick, Art: Ben Oliver

Africa, a land of beauty – and of great horror. A land of creation and conflict. It is in desperate need of a defender, and from the ranks of Batman Incorporated comes a soldier to carry on the legacy of The Dark Knight in the most tumultuous region on Earth. Meet Batwing, the Batman of Africa!

There’s a lot of unknowns here and I’m pulling for the series to do well.  Winick is going to be tip-toeing a line with the latest franchisee in Batman Inc., this one centered in Africa.  It’ll either come off as completely missing the mark on African issues, being overly preachy or balance activism and story telling.

Key reads: Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1

DETECTIVE COMICS #1Writer: Tony S. Daniel, Art: Tony S. Daniel and Ryan Winn

A killer called The Gotham Ripper is on the loose on Batman’s home turf – leading The Dark Knight on a deadly game of cat and mouse.

I’m not quite sure where in Batman’s life this is taking place.  Is it in the beginning, where he’s a bit more inexperienced?  Is this post Batman, Inc.?  Batman is an iconic character like Superman, so a lot will be riding on this series.

Key reads: Batman: Year One, Batman R.I.P.

GREEN ARROW #1 – Writer : J.T. Krul, Art: Dan Jurgens and George Perez

Green Arrow is on the hunt. Driven by inner demons, Ollie Queen travels the world and brings outlaws to justice…by breaking every law.

Now, armed with cutting-edge weaponry and illegally gained intel (courtesy of his team at QCore), Green Arrow is shooting first and asking questions later.

Green Arrow is the liberal ying to the Green Lantern’s conservative yang.  Billionaire Ollie Queen is the bow wielding hero who is out to stop crime and hopefully espousing his liberal views.

Key reads: Green Arrow Vol. 1: Into the Woods (Green Arrow (Graphic Novels)), Green Arrow: Year One, Green Arrow: Quiver (Book 1)

HAWK AND DOVE #1Writer: Sterling Gates, Art: Rob Liefeld

Hank Hall is not happy. He’s not happy to have Dawn Granger as a new partner in his war on crime. He’s not happy that she’s dating the ghostly Super Hero, Deadman. He’s not happy to learn that someone is trying to plunge the United States into a new civil war! Now it’s up to Hawk and Dove to root out the forces behind this conflict and stop them before they turn the U.S. into a wasteland!

And who is the monster lurking in the shadows, watching Hawk and Dove from afar? Find out in this new series from Sterling Gates (FLASHPOINT: KID FLASH LOST) and artist Rob Liefeld (X-Force, Youngblood)!

Brightest Day set up a decent dynamic between Hawk and Dove with Dove’s interest in Deadman, and it looks like that’s carrying over.  There series will hopefully have a good buddy aspect to it, my worry is the art by Liefeld, which I’m not a fan of.

Key reads: Hawk and Dove, Brightest Day, Vol. 1, Brightest Day, Vol. 2, Brightest Day Vol. 3

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #1Writer: Dan Jurgens, Art: Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan

With the growing presence of super beings around the world, the United Nations resolves to create a new group called Justice League International.

Batman, Booster Gold, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, August General in Iron, Fire, Ice, Vixen and Rocket Red are charged with promoting unity and trust – but can they reach that goal without killing each other first?

Not sure my thought about this series.  With Justice League and Stormwatch, I’m not sure if another major team like this is needed.  The roster seems interesting enough, but I’m not totally convinced.  The concept of a UN backed team though has me interested though.

Key reads: Justice League International, Vol. 1, Justice League International, Vol. 2, Justice League International, Vol. 3, Justice League International Vol. 4, Justice League International Vol. 5. (Justice League 5), Justice League International Vol. 6

MEN OF WAR #1Writer: Ivan Brandon, Art: Tom Derenick

On the ground and on the front lines, a young, headstrong soldier known as Joe Rock assumes command of Easy Company – a team of ex-military men turned contractors. Will they survive the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DCU’s Super-Villains? Find out in this explosive new series from Ivan Brandon (Viking, DOC SAVAGE) and Tom Derenick (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA)!

This is the updated Sgt. Rock taking the war comic and updating it to modern times.  I’m pulling for this one to do well, mostly because I want to see a cool war comic on the shelves.

Key reads: The Sgt. Rock Archives, Vol. 1 (DC Archive Editions), The Sgt. Rock Archives, Vol. 2 (DC Archive Editions), The Sgt. Rock Archives, Vol. 3 (DC Archive Editions)

O.M.A.C. #1Writer: Dan Didio and Keith Giffen, Art: Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish

The all-seeing Brother Eye satellite has unleashed a new beast upon the DC Universe in this smashing new series! Kevin Kho has become an unwilling participant in a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye as he is transformed into the One Machine Army Corp known only as O.M.A.C.!

This is the series this week I’m most iffy about.  Keith Giffen is likely what will save it, but it reminds me of the numerous Kirby ideas that DC is grasping on to.

Key reads: Jack Kirby’s O.M.A.C., Checkmate Vol. 1: A King’s Game (DC Comics), Checkmate Vol. 2: Pawn Breaks (DC Comics), Checkmate Vol. 3: Fall of the Wall (DC Comics)

STATIC SHOCK #1Writer: Scott McDaniel and John Rozum, Art: Scott McDaniel and Jonathan Glapion and LeBeau Underwood

The brilliant, slightly awkward high school student Virgil Hawkins transforms into the cocky electromagnetic hero Static!

A mysterious tragedy forces the Hawkins family to relocate from Dakota to New York City! Virgil embarks upon new adventures in a new high school and a new internship at S.T.A.R. Labs!

As Static, he dons a new uniform and establishes a new secret headquarters! But is he ready to take on the new villains who lurk in New York City’s underworld?

The most successful of Dwayne McDuffie’s Milestone comics, I’m cheering for the character and hope he does well.  This is a young character that has a following and has a good chance of being a new generation character that goes the distance and builds into something bigger.  I’m not holding my breath though.

Key reads: Static Shock Vol. 1: Rebirth of the Cool

STORMWATCH #1Writer: Paul Cornell, Art: Miguel Sepulveda

They are Stormwatch, a dangerous super human police force whose existence is kept secret from the world Directly following the ominous events of SUPERMAN #1, Adam One leads half the Stormwatch team to recover the [INFORMATION REDACTED] from deep in the Himalayas. Meanwhile, Jack Hawksmoor and the rest of the Stormwatch crew look to recruit two of the deadliest super humans on the planet: Midnighter and Apollo! And if they say no? Perhaps the Martian Manhunter can change their minds…

This series is going to be one of the bigger ones in the long run, putting together a secret group that’ll eventually lock horns with the Justice League.  It’s been hinted that the next major event will come out of whatever happens in this book, which makes it that much more important.

Key reads: StormWatch, Vol. 1: Force of Nature, Stormwatch: Team Achilles, Vol. 2, StormWatch Vol. 3: Change or Die, StormWatch Vol. 4: A Finer World, StormWatch Vol. 5: Final Orbit, The Authority Vol. 1: Relentless, The Authority Book 2: Under New Management

SWAMP THING #1Writer: Scott Snyder, Art: Yanick Paquette

One of the world’s most iconic characters has returned to the heart of the DC Universe, and every step he takes will shake the foundations of the Earth!

Alec Holland has his life back…but the Green has plans for it. A monstrous evil is rising in the desert, and it’ll take a monster of another kind to defend life as we know it!

It’s clear Swamp Thing is going to be a big deal in the new DCU.  Scott Snyder can do horror and hopefully the series keeps up a gothic horror feel to it.  If Snyder keeps it up and brings his “A” game, there’s a good chance we’ll see a modern day classic run of the series, but it’s got Alan Moore’s classic run hovering over it for comparison.

Key reads: Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One, Saga of the Swamp Thing, Book 2, Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Three, Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 4, Swamp Thing Vol. 5: Earth to Earth, Swamp Thing Vol. 6: Reunion